Vinny Testaverde says he can relate with the struggles of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has shouldered much of the blame for the team’s 4-6 start.
Testaverde, 49, played seven of his 21 National Football League seasons with the Jets, compiling a 35-26 record as a starter and taking the club to the American Football Conference championship game in 1998. Sanchez is 31-26 in four seasons as the Jets’ starter and, like Testaverde, he’s yet to fulfill the expectations that came with being a first-round draft pick.
Sanchez, 26, is the 29th-rated quarterback among the league’s 32 starters this season and has completed an NFL-low 53.5 percent of his passes. Testaverde said the Jets’ erratic running game and inexperienced receiving corps may be as much to blame as Sanchez for the team’s worst start since 2007.
“I can tell you this from experience, quarterbacks kind of usually go with the talent around them,” Testaverde said in a telephone interview. “When the talent is playing well, the quarterback plays well. When the guys don’t play so well, the quarterback looks bad. This might be along those lines. They have some injuries, that’s a part of it, and the running game hasn’t helped him out like it needs to.”
The Jets halted a three-game losing streak last week with a 27-13 win over the St. Louis Rams, as Sanchez completed 15 of his 20 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown. The victory helped at least temporarily quiet those calling for Sanchez to be benched in favor of backup Tim Tebow, including Testaverde, who now said Sanchez will remain the starter.
“Tim is not a guy who’s going to come into a game for three or four plays and have a big impact on a game,” Testaverde said. “He’s a guy that has to be in there down after down, wearing down the defense, and then doing his thing at the end of the game like he did so many times in Denver.”
Tebow has thrown a total of seven passes in 10 games, completing six, while rushing for 87 yards on 29 carries.
“I know Sanchez is Rex Ryan’s guy, but when things aren’t going well, when you’re not winning, you have to make a change for the betterment of the team, for all your guys,” Testaverde said. “But I’m just glad they were able to play well last week. Let’s see what that does going into this week’s game.”
Sanchez and the Jets are 6 1/2-point underdogs in their Nov. 23 Thanksgiving Day game against the AFC East-leading New England Patriots. The Patriots (7-3) are coming off a 35-point rout of the Indianapolis Colts in which they scored a franchise-record 59 points.
Testaverde didn’t make a prediction for this week’s game, instead leaving that to a wild turkey named Jimmy Junior, who picked the Patriots to win as part of a promotion for Wild Turkey Bourbon. Testaverde helped to train the bird, which he called “the world’s first football-picking turkey.” In addition to the Patriots, Jimmy Junior today in New York picked the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Lions to defeat the Houston Texans in the NFL’s other two Thanksgiving Day holiday games.
“Hopefully he’ll make some great predictions, and he won’t be getting stuffed on Thanksgiving,” Testaverde said.
After the Patriots, the Jets’ remaining opponents -- Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo -- all have losing records and are a combined 17-33.
“I’ve been with teams that looked like we were out of it and we bounced back,” Testaverde said. “With a little bit of luck involved, we were able to make the playoffs and make a run at it. They’re in the same situation. If they just stay confident and shield themselves from the outside distractions, I think they’ll continue to play like they did last week.”